The Secret History: Porn Archives, Personal Collections and British Universities

Mercer, John (2014) The Secret History: Porn Archives, Personal Collections and British Universities. Porn Studies, 1 (4). pp. 411-415. ISSN 2326-8743

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Oliver Carter and John Mercer from Birmingham City University and Sharif Mowlabocus of University of Sussex have acquired the personal video and film archive of an important anti censorhip activist who was the founder of a campaigning group during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This is a very particular type of archive in that the texts are ostensibly gay male pornographic materials.

Plans are now in place to make the archive available for scholarly use. This is an extremely important resource for anyone interested in British attitudes and wider debates around sexual representation, the definition of obscenity and the anti-censorship campaigns of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It not only provides documentary evidence of some of the specific materials that anti-censorship activists were concerned with defending (especially as they relate to the status of homosexuality during the period) but also acts as a valuable historical document of the private practices of collecting and curating materials deemed obscene in wider culture and the restrictive and clandestine contexts in which such activities out of necessity were transacted.

The work of making this very private archive accessible as a resource for researchers presents a number of issues relating to censorship and self censorship, ethical conduct and the potentials and pitfalls of archives of sexual representations. In this paper I outline some of the issues that are at stake and explore the distinctions and contradictions of the public and the private when thinking about this kind of material.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
3 November 2014Published Online
3 August 2014Accepted
Subjects: CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of English and Media
Depositing User: John Mercer
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2019 09:24
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2023 16:17

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